Thursday, 13 May 2010
The invasion of Iraq is in its' first few weeks, and Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) is leading a unit that’s scouring strife‑torn Baghdad for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not surprisingly, Miller is getting a little frustrated at raiding supposed WMD bunkers and finding disused toilet factories. So when local resident 'Freddy' (Khalid Abdalla) says he saw a bunch of Iraq generals holding a secret meeting in a house in the next suburb over, Miller decides that it’s his big change to get some real WMD information direct from the source. He manages to get the information even as the general gets away, but he also gets into a world of trouble as Pentagon suit Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and CIA agent Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) decide that they can both use him to push their own agendas.
Brown thinks that keeping the Iraqi army together will help hold the crumbling country together; Poundstone is a neo‑con who thinks that democracy- and disbanding the army as soon as possible - will make Iraq into America Jr. Miller ends up siding with Brown (which we know is a bad move, as the Iraq army was disbanded soon after the invasion) and it starts to become obvious that, for all the wonder of this film extremely impressive re‑creation of Baghdad circa 2003, we’re basically watching a remake of Chinatown.
As in all good noir mysteries, our lead is a hardboiled hero trying to uncover the truth, while everyone he thought he could trust turns out to want the truth covered up, and there’s a sense of doom hanging over the place that makes it clear that there's no happy ending in sight even if he does solve the mystery of the WMDs – it’s Iraq circa 2003, the only way things can go is down. As seen from his excellent work directing the last two Bourne films, Paul Greengrass definitely knows how to put together scene after scene of exciting action. The fights here are way more realistic than anything Jason Bourne dished out, but they retain an impact that keep this film on the edge. Using real life events as plot devices in a thriller is a risky move, especially when they took place not so long ago, but here it pays off. Whatever your views on the war in Iraq , this is a gripping thriller that – the occasional flat moment aside – provides thrills from start to finish.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #475)